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Dr. Mary J. Wardell-Ghirarduzzi

Dr. Mary J. Wardell-Ghirarduzzi ’89

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Pacific News

Forum speaker: We cannot have silence on racial justice

Jun 11, 2020

Mary J. Wardell-Ghirarduzzi ’89 gained the attention of attendees with a powerful opening recitation.

Wardell-Ghirarduzzi, the vice provost for diversity engagement and community at University of San Francisco, read the names of dozens of black-identifying individuals who died in confrontations with police over the past decade.

Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, whose recent deaths spurred worldwide protests and heightened social justice awareness, were among the last names she read during a University of the Pacific virtual forum on racial justice.

“Today, we were supposed to follow up with a second discussion on cultural humility,” said Wardell-Ghirarduzzi. “We knew that was not the right topic this time. Racism is a soul sickness that is keeping many of our institutions from fulfilling their highest missions.”

The Pacific Alumni Association sponsored Wardell-Ghirarduzzi’s discussion on racial justice, held on June 10. Tracy Simmons, assistant dean of admission and financial aid for Pacific’s McGeorge School of Law, moderated the session.

Here are some points Wardell-Ghirarduzzi made in the presentation.

The need for transformative allies
You have your allies and you have people who say they want to be your allies. If you are here today, chances are you are an ally. However, we cannot have the silence of our friends. You must be active. You have unique positionality, unique power and unique privilege.”

What can I do?
“This is a question I get a lot from white people. I take this as a question of love. And I respond by giving thoughts and ideas. But I still, in my own mind, am thinking ‘what is it that got you to this point in your life without ideas of how you can help?’ I do share ideas, and there are so many resources out there. It is essential that people take time to educate themselves on the issues.”

The weaponizing of whiteness
“I have spent a lifetime dealing with the Amy Coopers of the world. You will recall she is the woman who was reporting a black man simply because he was black … If you are honest, you have been Amy Cooper before in your life. It is important to admit that and learn from it.”

The role of institutional actors
“Institutional actors are leaders who can cause disparity to continue generation after generation. They often are part and parcel to the problems we face. They have the power to make change, but do not do so.”

The road to redemption depends on our white friends
“Those on the margins must be brought to the middle. If people will not change, there are others out there who need your attention.”

Equality is the enemy of equity
“The principles of equality are a danger to the demands of equity. Equality alone cannot solve our problems because inequality has been imbedded in our institutions the past 400 years. Equity demands that institutions do more for those who need the most.”

A strong, lasting response is crucial
“We have not seen anything like this since the 1960s, with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. If we do not respond now, I ask, then when will we respond?”

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